Thursday, July 5, 2012

Strait History And Iran 's Options

George Santayana wisely said: “" Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it ." Oblivious to history and its lessons, America and its Western allies are repeating their actions of the 1950's -- that of imposing an oil embargo on Iran . The American-led alliance has forgotten the past.

Iran remembers

When under the leadership of the nationalist Dr. Mossadegh, Iran opted to nationalize its oil industry, the British Royal Navy blocked Iran 's oil exports to forcefully prevent if from nationalizing its oil. In retaliation to Iran 's nationalistic ambitions, and to punish Iran for pursuing its national interests, the British instigated a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil.

In the 1950's, Iran did not have the military might to retaliate to the oil embargo and the naval blockade was aimed at crushing the economy in order to bring about regime change. The subsequent events is described in The New York Times [i] article as a “lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid” when an oil-rich Third World nation “goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.” Iran learnt that sovereignty and nationalism necessitate tactical/military strength and determination.

Not heeding the aftermath of the 1950's, the American-led Western allies have once again imposed an oil embargo on Iran . In retaliation, Iran has drafted a bill to stop the flow of oil through its territorial waters – the Strait of Hormuz , to countries which have imposed sanctions against it. This bill is not without merit and contrary to the previous oil embargo, it would appear that Tehran has the upper hand and the heavy cost associated with the embargo will not be borne by Iran alone.

Iran's Legal Standing

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that vessels can exercise the right of innocent passage, and coastal states should not impede their passage. Although Iran has signed the Treaty, the Treaty was not ratified, as such, it has no legal standing. However, even if one overlooks the non-binding signature, under UNCLOS framework of international law, a coastal state can block ships from entering its territorial waters if the passage of the ships harms “peace, good order or security” of said state, as the passage of such ships would no longer be deemed “innocent” [ii] .

Even if Iran simply chooses to merely delay the passage of tankers by exercising its right to inspect every oil-tanker that passes through the Strait of Hormuz , these inspections and subsequent delays would maintain or contribute to higher oil prices. While higher oil prices would benefit Iran and other oil-producing countries, they would further destabilize the European economy which is already in crisis. More


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